Constance June Meador, professionally known as Connie Smith (born August 14, 1941 in Elkhart, Indiana, USA) is an American country music artist, who had major success in the 1960s and 70s. She was discovered by country artist, Bill Anderson in 1963 and signed with RCA Victor Records the following year. Within less than a year, Smith moved from being an Ohio housewife to a country artist with the success of her 1964 eight-week number one single, "Once a Day." The song was the first debut single by a female country artist to reach #1 on the Billboard country chart. To date, "Once a Day" still holds the record for the most weeks spent as number one by a female country artist.
Following "Once a Day"'s success, Anderson and songwriter, Dallas Frazier helped to write a string of hits for Smith that would continue into the later half of the 1960s and into the 1970s, including "Then and Only Then," "I Can't Remember," "Cincinnati, Ohio," and "Tiny Blue Transistor Radio." She would later record for Columbia Records in 1973, which allowed her to record more Gospel material. She left the label three years later and signed with Monument. She went into semi-retirement shortly afterwards, but continued recording for Epic between 1985 and 1986 and went back into semi-retirement, until she revived her career in 1998 with a self-titled album. She has recorded over 30 studio albums, which also included three collaborations and five albums of Gospel music. Although Smith has not been fully active as an artist since the late 1970s, she has been revered by many artists in country music as one of the best and most underrated female vocalists in the music industry. Artists such as Dolly Parton and George Jones have since cited her as one of their favorite artists.
Smith was born Constance June Meador in Elkhart, Indiana, but was raised in West Virginia and Ohio, and was also one of 14 children. She remembered from an early age of wanting to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. As a child, her father was abusive, causing her to suffer a mental collapse as a teenager. In her teen years, Smith was involved in a severe lawnmower accident that nearly severed her leg. While being hospitalized from the injury, she taught herself how to play the guitar. After recovering from the accident, she began performing at local events and also appeared on several radio and television shows. In the early 60s, Smith wed and became a housewife in Marietta, Ohio, but continued to sing. While performing near Columbus, Ohio in 1963, country artist Bill Anderson first heard her and offered his help in gaining Smith a recording contract. Shortly after discovering her, he had her perform on Ernest Tubb's Record Shop Live Show in 1964. Two months later she made demo recordings written by Anderson, which included his song "Once a Day." After hearing the demos, producer Chet Atkins signed Smith to RCA Victor in Nashville. Because Atkins was working with too many artists during Smith's first years at RCA, Bob Ferguson served as her producer.
Breakthrough at RCA Victor: 1964 ? 1972
One of Smith's first recordings under the label was Anderon's "Once a Day." It was soon chosen to be her debut single, and was released in August of 1964. By November the song reached #1, staying for eight weeks at the top of Billboard's country chart and remaining on the charts for 28 weeks altogether, making Smith an overnight country star. Her debut album, Connie Smith, remained on the charts for 30 weeks, seven of those weeks were spent at the #1 position. By the end of 1964, "Once a Day" became one of the years biggest songs in country music. It would be Smith's only #1 hit single of her career. The song once held the record for a debut single by a female artist to reach the #1 spot until Trisha Yearwood broke the record in 1991 with the song, "She's in Love with the Boy." To date it still holds the record for the most weeks spent at #1 by a female country artist, only a few artists have come close, including Faith Hill with "Breathe" in 1999, Carrie Underwood with "Jesus Take the Wheel" in 2006, and Taylor Swift with "Our Song" in 2007, all three of which spent 6 weeks at #1.
The propelled success of "Once a Day" led to a string of Top 10 hits within the next five years on the Billboard Country Chart. Her follow-up single to "Once a Day," "Then and Only Then" reached #4 and its flip-side "Tiny Blue Transistor Radio" made the Top 25 in 1965. She had a string of Top 10 hits for four years, starting with "I Can't Remember" and "If I Talk to Him" in 1965, followed by "Nobody But a Fool Would Love You," "Ain't Had No Lovin," and "The Hurtin's All Over" in 1966. In 1967 she had hits with "Baby's Back Again" and "Cincinnati, Ohio." She also recorded an album of Bill Anderson-written songs that year titled, Connie Smith Sings Bill Anderson, although by this time she was no longer working with him. Also around this time, Smith released a string of LPs which spawned her major hit singles during this period, beginning with Cute 'n' Country (1965), Miss Smith Goes to Nashville (1966), Born to Sing (1966), and Downtown Country (1967).
In 1965, Smith became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and was in high demand for tours and concert appearances. During these years she appeared in several country films, including Road to Nashville, Las Vegas Hillbillies with Ferlin Husky and Jayne Mansfield, and Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar with Marty Robbins. Between 1968 and 1969, the pressures of the music business began to take a toll on her life (touring, promotion, and appearing on television), nearly pushing her to edge of suicide. She was able to seek solace in both family life and her religion, Christianity. While she didn't end her career as a singer, she did slow down the number of appearances that she made on tour and in films. Beginning in 1970, her success slightly declined but not enough to completely threaten her popularity. In 1969, she had a Top 10 hit with "You and Your Sweet Love" and in 1970 with "I Never Once Stopped Loving You." In 1969, she released a duet album with country singer, Nat Stuckey, and together their single "Young Love" became a Top 20 hit.
In the early 70s Smith continued to have further Top 10 hits under RCA, and toured internationally in Europe, Australia, and the Far East. In 1971 she had a Top 5 hit with "Just One Time." In 1972, she had her most successful year in the decade with three Top 10 hits; "Just for What I Am," "If it Ain't Love (Let's Leave it Alone)," and "Love is the Look You're Looking for." Around this time, Smith recorded a smaller amount of recordings written by Bill Anderson and more by songwriter, Dallas Frazier, which included 1972's "If it Ain't Love (Let's Leave it Alone)." The album "If it Ain't Love" was spawned off of was even titled, If It Ain't Love and Other Great Dallas Frazier Songs. Smith stayed with RCA until 1973, nearly serving ten years at the label.
Career in the 70s and semi-retirement: 1973 ? 1979
In 1973, Smith signed with Columbia Records. She began to add more Gospel music into her act, and married for a third time to an evangelist. With the help of her third husband, Smith turned her tours into a Gospel road show. At Columbia, Smith was permitted to record more Gospel material, and became increasingly obsessed with religion, asserting that under her new recording contract, she should record one Gospel album a year.
Smith ended up recording two Gospel albums between 1973 and 1976 with God Is Abundant (1973) and Connie Smith Sings Hank Williams Gospel (1975). Throughout the decade, she remained a fixture on the country music charts. Although she was not as popular as once had been was not as popular on RCA, most of her singles were able to stay in the Top 20 for most of the decade. Smith had two hits in 1973 with George Richey's "You've Got Me (Right Where You Want Me)" and Dallas Frazier's "Ain't Love a Good Thing." During this time in her career Smith's twangy vocal style was not as apparent as it once was on many of her recordings. This was in songs such as her Top 15 hit cover of Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me." She had further hits with "(Til) I Kissed You" and "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)" in 1976, both of which were written by Don Everly.
In 1977 Smith signed with Monument Records. Under the label Smith's material grew increasingly more Pop-sounding, recording everything from Adult Contemporary ballads to upbeat Disco numbers. She had a major hit in 1977 with a cover of Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything," which went to #14 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart. The follow-up, "Lovin' You Baby," recorded in the style of a Disco song, peaked within the Country Top 40. However her next several singles, "They'll Never Be Another for Me," "Smooth Sailin'," and "Ten Thousand and One" all peaked outside of the Top 40, progressively going into lower positions on the country chart between 1978 and 1979. She released an album in 1978 titled New Horizons, however it did not make an impact either. In 1979, she left Monument and neglected actively performing and touring between for six years, only appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. Over the next six years, she decided to focus on spending time with her family and raising her children. In 1985, Smith made a brief comeback under Epic Records, recording two singles. The first single, "A Far Cry from You" charted at #71, written by then-songwriter Steve Earle. The second single, "Hold Me Back" failed to chart in 1986.
Return to music: 1998 ? 2007
In 1990, Smith made a trip to the United Kingdom to tour there for her British fans. and in 1993 released a live album recorded in Branson, Missouri. In 1996, RCA records released The Essential Connie Smith, a 20-track CD collection of Smith's singles between 1964 and 1972. In 1998 Smith returned to recording after a 20-year gap with the release of her self-titled album under Warner Bros. Records, produced by her husband Marty Stuart and her husband helped Smith write the songs for the album. It was given a positive review by allmusic.com in 1998, calling the album "a solid effort." Although it was her first album in many years, it attracted little attention. In 2003, she released a Gospel album with country singers, Barbara Fairchild and Sharon White entitled, Love Never Fails, which again attracted little attention.
In 2005, Smith joined the IFCO (International Fan Club Organization) to help headline the show they organized, along with Craig Morgan, Jimmy Wayne, Trick Pony, Mark Wills, and Bill Anderson. Smith performed her 1966 hit, "The Hurtin's All Over" and her 1977 minor hit, "The Latest Shade of Blue." Each act was only able to perform two songs. In 2006, an album of Gospel songs were released titled, Voice of the Spirit, The Gospel of the South, that included a song by Smith, as well as other Gospel songs by Johnny Cash and Vince Gill.
Connie Smith performing at the Grand Ole Opry May 18, 2007.
On June 5, 2007, Smith's husband, Marty Stuart released a collection of duets titled, Compadres: An Anthology of Duets, which included a duet between Stuart and Smith titled, "Hearts Like Ours," a song in which they both co-wrote. On June 7, 2007, Smith performed as an act during the 2007 CMA Music Festival, at Nashville's Riverfront Park, along with Terri Clark, John Anderson, and Lynn Anderson during the festivals daily concerts.
Current career: 2008 ? present
In February 2008, Smith and her husband donated personal memorabilia to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. On February 13, the Hall of Fame gave Stuart and Smith a ceremony for bringing in their memorabilia. Smith's husband owns some of the largest collections of country music instruments and memorabilia. Their donations included stage wear, guitars, and other items. Smith gave the museum the original acetate from her first recording session under RCA records. The acetate included the original version of "Once a Day." Smith and her husband also performed a cover of the Buck Owens song, "Your Tender Loving Care" during the ceremony.
After appearing on the Crook and Chase talk show in June 2008, Smith announced that she is working on recording several studio albums that will be produced by Marty Stuart; a country album, a gospel album, and an acoustic album. The album release dates have not yet been confirmed.
Smith has been considered by many album reviewers and music critics as a "dynamic song stylist" and "full-bodied vocalist." Most of her songs under her first label, RCA Victor were recorded in the popular Nashville Sound style and was backed by Nashville's "A-Team" of musicians, who also worked on the sessions of artists such as, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and Marty Robbins. Most of Smith's recordings under the RCA label featured a steel guitar in the background, which gave most of her songs, "an edge that still feels sharp today," according to the book, Country Music: The Rough Guide. According to Smith herself, the lonely desperation sound in her voice "came from the heart". Allmusic reviewer, Thom Jurek considered Smith, "to be the heiress to Patsy Cline's throne" because she could, "take virtually any song and making it a country song of class and distinction."
Throughout her career, Smith has been rivaled by many of her musical contemporaries and fans as, "one of the best and most underrated vocalists in country history." In an interview, Dolly Parton praised Smith as one of her favorite artists, stating, "There?s really only three female singers in the world: Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending." In his 1995 autobiography, George Jones credited Smith as his favorite country singer. Jones has since recorded many of Smith's recordings. Reba McEntire has since recorded her 1973 single, "You've Got Me (Right Where You Want Me)" for her 1984 album of country standards and new tracks entitled, My Kind of Country. A reviewer in The 9513 stated that Smith should be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, calling her, "The genre?s best female singer ever. Period."
Smith has been married several times. She first wed in the early 60s and then divorced. In the mid-70s, she married her third husband, evangelist Marshall Haynes, who helped her turn her road show into a traveling Gospel music show. They later divorced. Smith also has five children, whom she left the music business for in the early 80s to finish raising. Her eldest son, Darren is a missionary in Norway, and Smith herself is a Born Again Christian.
In 1997, Smith married 90s neo-traditionalist country star Marty Stuart. The couple first met in 1970 when Marty was only 11 years old and posed for a picture with Smith at one of her concerts. Stuart had his mother buy him a yellow shirt in order for Smith to notice him during her performance. The couple married during a private ceremony at an Indian reservation in 1997. They often perform and write songs together, and have written over 30 songs.